A Farrier’s Assistant

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Go ahead and share some love with your furry loved ones, you know I will.

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February is a month of two important topics that both often go underappreciated for their level of importance.  Pet Dental Health month and International Hoof-care Month.

Last year I chose to focus on dentistry.  You might remember a few of those posts:


This year I’ve been working more on the hoof-care aspect of February.  We kicked off hoof-care month in the last week of January when renowned farriers were attending the International Hoof-care Summit.  It was during this week you met Ashley Gasky, a fantastic double certified farrier who is always working to further her own education in order to provide her horses and clients with the best care imaginable….and I have the honor of calling her my friend!  Check back at our interview again at Interview With a Farrier.ashley

I didn’t want to end things with just a brief interview so I got on my warm layers and played farrier’s assistant for a day to get a feel for what a day is like in a farrier’s shoes (pun intended?).


Ashley and I had been out of touch since the beginning of high-school when she moved away.  Fast forward through time I was on again off again with horses, graduated high-school, went to college where I worked to ride with the equestrian team (though finances never allowed me to compete).   I graduated college, started my career, took  a kickboxing class where I met Zac (instructor), began teaching fitness classes myself, helped with a women’s self defense class (Krav Maga), met a couple students who had horses, got introduced to Blade who was looking for “his” person at their farm.  After all of that I reconnected with Ashley who was keeping her horse at the farm I was to board at…and now a farrier!  Needless to say selecting a farrier was an easy choice.

When I reconnected with Ashley she was transporting herself in a little hatchback.  Before long she was in a pickup truck that sported nice cap capable of storing her tools  and horseshoes on the side.  The back rolled out to allow her to work the shoes.

Now, she’s in a custom designed farrier’s rig.  Everything has it’s place, elegantly designed where form meets function.

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I played assistant on a light day for Ashley, a cancellation in the morning allowed us to start off with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs.  Since I’ve spent quite some time caring for her horses in the past (before I moved) we went out to see the herd.  Cleaning the shed, feeding them and I even hugged her Sassy Pants Pony!

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With breakfast, horse-and-doggie time out of the way we made for our first appointment.  All of the horse-owners gave me permission to take photos, though I have left all but one name out for privacy.

Our first stop was resetting some shoes on two horses.  Despite the A+ mare stare this she was a super sweet girl.  In the image you’ll see she’s getting her hoof soaked with a CleanTraxx solution for a fungal infection affecting her hoof wall.  Hoof infections like thrush and white line can be very aggressive and AGGRAVATING situation for horse owners.  This winter we have been dealing with either hard, rutted ground or soft deep mud.  Neither scenario are great for hoof health and us horse owners have to find ways to manage.

This farm also had a couple of cute miniatures.  They didn’t need their hooves trimmed on this visit but check out this cute guy named Hashtag!  I hope you can understand why I just had to share his name…it’s brilliant!


Once we had finished soaking and resetting the shoes of the first two horses (I didn’t have a chance to photograph the paint gelding) we made out way to the next stop.  What awaited us here, besides the high winds and freezing temperatures, was four Icelandic horses.

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I couldn’t have been happier to actually meet some of these horses in person.  Now that we are parents to an Icelandic Sheepdog AND I do mounted archery I am so intrigued by this breed.  Icelandic horses are famous for having an extra gait specific to their breed.  While all horses can walk, trot, canter, and gallop, the tolt is a smooth four-beat gate specific to the breed. I have embedded a great video showing the tolt, so feel free to have a look!  There are so many fascinating details about this breed that I can’t elaborate on now, but it is important to note that they are horses, though most individuals of the breed would typically fall under the “pony” height.

These horses had some of the best winter coats I’ve ever seen.  They were thick and well equipped for our brutal winter temperatures…and three of them were late 20s/30s!

Though I was ecstatic to meet these fuzzy beasts what made our visit even more special was the world’s friendliest kitty.  While Ashley was busy trimming the horses this cat came to greet me.  Before long the cat began sucking my thumb.   It was the most bizarre thing but adorable all the same.

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Following the Icelandics we traveled to a boarding facility to trim a sweet Appaloosa gelding.  Unfortunately the owner was unable to be there but he is extremely well mannered.  He stood quietly without needing to be held or tied.

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Our final stop of the day was a sweet gelding.  Fortunately his run-in shed had electricity because the sun had gone down and it was dark at this point.  As with all of the other horses Ashley worked on he was very sweet and quiet.  As Ashley worked we all got to chatting and we learned that he would be getting a sister.  His owner had found a second horse and was very excited to bring her home.  I’m hoping everything is going splendidly for them!

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On her light day Ashley and I visited 4 farms and she worked on eight horses; 2 shod and 6 barefoot trims.  Our appointments were all located in about the same area but we spent a good amount of our time in the truck traveling between farms.  On average it took us about 20 minutes between appointments.   All of the horses Ashley worked on were very well mannered and well loved; after all I post about the horrors of slaughter it was refreshing to connect with great people.

The day was frigid, the wind easily put our mid-teens day into the negatives.

Ashley’s job is very physically demanding.  It requires wrestling the legs of a 1200 pound animal, hunching over and working in a very non-ergonomic configuration.  It requires her to brave any type of weather, and it requires her dexterity.  While I could bundle myself up and wear gloves Ashley needed to have lighter layers and expose her fingers in order do her work properly.

Something else I hadn’t mentioned before was that Ashley worked all day with a broken finger…scrapes, bruises, and cuts are nothing new to farriers.

Ashley is a good friend of mine and she’s also a great teacher and horseman.  She is owed credit for many of the practices I use with the boys at home.  If you haven’t yet I hope you’ll stop by her business page and follow her.  Whether you live in upstate New York or in Australia her page offers many opportunities to advance your understanding of horses and hoof-care.

https://www.facebook.com/21stCenturyHoofCare/

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In all we had a marvelous day.  I had the opportunity to ride along with one of my favorite people.  I caught a glimpse of what a day is like in her shoes.  Between visits we warmed up and had many conversations on all topics.  We even enjoyed a fun chat with another farrier in North Carolina for a bit (HI!)!

With our day finished we had a very nice dinner at Alaturco Mediterranean Grill in Ballston Spa, NY.  If you are in upstate New York I highly recommend this place.  Our sever was friendly, our food was not only timely but delicious, and the prices were very reasonable.

 https://www.facebook.com/alaturcokitchen/

 

 

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